Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Piece of My Mind

The doctor and my friend Paul had both casually mentioned to me something along the lines of “As far as brain surgery goes, this is a minor one. There is no such thing as minor brain surgery. Don’t know if you want to have conversation with any of your family but sometimes people do.”

I spoke to my mother first and was very clear that I didn’t want to be on life support at all if there was a high likelihood of brain damage or any longer than 3 days. My mother, clearly uncomfortable with that, said she understood and that she agreed but that I didn’t need to keep talking since she was beyond certain I would be making that decision for her and not the other way around.

My wife then came in and I was a little more explicit with her. I told her I didn’t want to have a funeral, that this idea of mourning someone’s death or celebrating someone’s life shouldn’t apply to me. Once I was gone, everyone needed to move on as soon as possible. She blew me off and said she was going to charge admission to my funeral as she was convinced that more than a few people would pay to have confirmation (Since the operation, she has really stepped up this program. While she has not been successful, she says that tickets are much cheaper if bought beforehand. Early registration is a serious discount and there are group packages available so act now). I added that I didn’t want to be buried that I wanted to be cremated and flushed down the toilet. I’ve been saying that for years but somehow I’m not sure she’s going to listen but she said she’d make sure I was cremated and that my ashes were scattered somewhere appropriate rather than kept. This entire time she was weeping, not crying but tears were going down here cheeks as we talked and flirted. We remembered some of this trip or that joke. Finally, I mentioned to her the life support thing, that 3 days max was all that I wanted and as the tears streamed down her cheek, she responded and said, “really, 3 days? I can’t start dating tomorrow.” We both laughed and I was reassured of what I’d always known, I’d married my soulmate. A couple of I love you’s and hugs and then it was time for the procedure.

The procedure had been explained to me that they would take a piece of my skull out, about the size of two pencils than they would put in a needle the size of angel hair pasta and take out some cells. They would be tested and I’d have results in one days of whether it was an astrocytoma (an octopus shaped cancer) or just a standard glioma (more of a blob). The astrocytoma was worse because it had tentacles that modern medicine doesn’t have a way to see during any type of imaging. The doctor said he thought it was likely grade 1 but that it could be grade 2 (I had learned there are 4 grades of cancer, each one worse but it was more like the Richter scale than a linear one).

Then, it was time. The nurses and anesthesiologists came in and were gathered round. I had once gone under before and was told when I was being injected. This time I already had an IV and don’t remember getting a warning. The nurses asked me how I was doing and I said I was fine but that either way I was about to give them “a piece of my mind.”

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